WASHINGTON — A panel of Republican leaders voted unanimously Monday to keep veteran Iowa lawmaker Steve King off of House committees, a firm rebuke to an influential opponent of illegal immigration who sparked outrage last week after openly questioning whether the term “white supremacist” was offensive.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the decision by the Republican Steering Committee, which seats lawmakers on House committees, followed his own recommendation and was meant to send a message about the Republican at large.

“That is not the party of Lincoln,” he said of King’s comments. “It is definitely not American. All people are created equal in America, and we want to take a very strong stance about that.”

King, who was elected to a ninth term in November, served on the House Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business committees in the last Congress. The decision to effectively strip him of those posts came as House Democrats pondered rebukes of their own and as leading Republicans across the party spoke out against him.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said there is “no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind,” while Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, called on King to resign.

The recent controversy began when King asked in a New York Times interview published last week, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?”

It followed a long string of remarks disparaging of immigrants and minorities, as well as a seeming embrace of far-right foreign politicians and parties that have been openly hostile to those same groups.

King, in a statement, said, “Leader McCarthy’s decision to remove me from committees is a political decision that ignores the truth … Ultimately, I told him, ‘You have to do what you have to do, and I will do what I have to do.’ ” King did not speak to reporters after leaving an hourlong meeting with McCarthy on Monday evening, before the steering vote.

House Democrats could bring up a measure condemning King as soon as Tuesday. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the party’s No. 3 leader, said Monday he would introduce a resolution to express “disapproval of Mr. King’s comments and condemnation of white nationalism and white supremacy in all forms.”

“I do so invoking the words of another King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who, if he had been allowed to live, would be celebrating his 90th birthday” Tuesday, he said on the House floor.

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